Michael Smith is a poet who has given a lifetime of service to the art of poetry both in English and Spanish. He has been described as a classical modernist, a poet of modern life. Born in Dublin in 1942, he was the founder of New Writers’ Press in 1967 and has been responsible for the publication of over 100 books and magazines. He was keen to promote the modernist tradition in Irish poetry, publishing the work of Thomas MacGreevy, Brian Coffey, Denis Devlin, Anthony Cronin, Michael Hartnett, among others. He was founder and editor of the influential literary magazine The Lace Curtain.
From 1984 to 1989 he was a member of the Irish Arts Council and is a member of Aosdána. He has translated into English and published some of the most difficult and exhilarating poets in Spanish, including Federico García Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Miguel Hernández (Unceasing Lightning as well as Hernádez’s Prison Poems) and the two great Spanish masters of the baroque, Francisco de Quevedo and Luis de Góngora. He has also translated Gerardo Diego´s Manual de espumas, a Selected Poems of José Hierro and selections of the poems of Juan Jiménez and Luis Cernuda, among others.
His own poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies of Irish poetry, including The Penguin Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry, Edited by Derek Mahon and Peter Fallon, and Contemporary Irish Poetry, Edited by Anthony Bradley (University of California Press, 1980, 1988). Among his most recent books (2004) are The Purpose of the Gift, Maldon & Other Translations (NWP/Shearsman), Collected Poems (Shearsman, 2009) and Poems from Other Tongues (Shearsman 2011). He has published in four volumes the poetry of the great 20th century Peruvian poet, César Vallejo, Trilce and Complete Later Poems 1923-1938, The Black Heralds and Selected Poems (Shearsman), in which he has collaborated with the Peruvian scholar, Valentino Gianuzzi, thus bringing all of Vallejo’s poetry into English (these volumes have just been published by Shearsman Book in a single volume of almost 800 pages, now being considered as the definitive version in English).
His translations of the Selected Poems of Rosalía de Castro (with Luis Ingelmo); his translation of the Collected Poems: Rimas of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer was published by Shearsman Books in 2008); also, with Luis Ingelmo, Complete Poems of Claudio Rodríguez and (with Beatriz White) and Selected Poems of Juan Antonio Villacañas, Elsa Cross and Veronica Volkov. . His translation of Miguel Hernández’s Cancionero y romancero de ausencia was published in the United States in 2008 by Parlor Press.
Among his most recent books are Collected Poems (Shearsman, 2009) and Prayers for the Dead and other poems (Shearsman, 2014).
Four of his translations of poems by Rosalía de Castro were published in the Norton Anthology of World Literature in 2013. He has contributed a number of translations to The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry edited by Mark Weiss (University of California Press, 2009). In 2012 Shearsman published a new version of his translation, with Luis Ingelmo, of Cantes Flamencos / Flamenco Songs.
In 2001 he received the prestigious translating award, the European Academy Medal, for his impeccable translation of great Spanish poets. For many years he was a regular literary reviewer and features writer for The Irish Times. He also edited three issues of Poetry Ireland Review. He was the first Writer in Residence in University College Dublin.
17 November 2014
It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Michael Smith.
Michael Smith was a fundamental part of the literary culture of this country. In the 1960s and 1970s as the publisher of the New Writers Press he built a bridge between the modernist poets of the mid-century and the rising generation of writers. An outstanding poet in his own right, he was also an outstanding translator from the Spanish and a brilliant editor of the work of James Clarence Mangan. His generous spirit will be sadly missed by his colleagues.
We send our deepest condolences to his wife Irene, his three daughters, grandchildren, family and friends.